Our Adoption Story

I always had a part inside of me that thought “maybe I’ll adopt someday.” But that thought was very romanticized and over-simplified. When the adoption option became a reality for us, it was frightening at first and then quite overwhelming as I researched the details. But it quickly grew into something very exciting…and hopeful.

Ken and I had both traveled to Russia before we met each other. To me, Russia was the obvious place from where we should adopt. Ken wasn’t so sure initially, but after more research and meeting with an adoption agency, we set out whole-heartedly to pursue adopting a Russian sibling group. We knew that two or three children at once would be quite a challenge, but then we would have our family, they would have each other, and we would settle into life and take on whatever challenges came our way. Little did we know that Russia itself would be our greatest challenge.

We began the adoption paper chase in early 2005 and were invited to travel to Ulyanovsk, Russia in December of the same year. Upon our arrival, our hope began to fade. We were told that in reality, there really were no sibling groups there available for adoption. After a number of visits with the Ministry of Education official who oversaw adoptions, we were finally given permission to meet some children. Of these, only one was really available and healthy enough to travel and we fell head over heals in love with him. We visited him day after day and completed the necessary in-country paperwork to move forward with the adoption. Then we kissed him good-bye, promised to see him again soon and headed home to wait for our assigned court date.

That date never came.

We had baby showers and completed the nursery, but the only news we received from Russia was that the judge in charge of our case had rejected more of our paperwork. We fought to appease her for 10 months until our hands were finally tied and we could not produce the paperwork she was insisting on. Our agency was fighting for us and eventually took our case to the next highest court in Russia and represented us there. But they lost and were told that the regional judge had jurisdiction over our case and she could do as she wished. She obviously didn’t want any more Americans “taking” kids from her region and she stopped us dead in our tracks. Our names were removed from his file, we had to sign a rejection letter and we never saw “our” sweet little boy again. Our hopes and dreams were shattered and our hearts were torn to pieces. We still pray for this precious boy and hope that he has received the blessing of a Russian family who loves him and that he knows of the love of God.

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Standing near St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square.

We chose to press on, and in February of 2007 we were invited to travel to Russia once again, this time to the city of Astrakhan. Upon our arrival, things turned bleak once again as the Minister of Education informed us that they, also, did not have a sibling group for us. Instead, they sent us to visit a boy who was so ill that we weren’t even allowed to see him. Instead, we were told to go sit on a bench in the hallway of the orphanage and wait for the friends whom we were traveling with to be done with their visit, and then to head back to town with them and meet with the official again the next morning. We tried to be courageous as we inwardly wondered how we had allowed this to happen to us twice.

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A view of the cathedral inside Astrakhan’s kremlin wall.

The next morning we were given another referral, of siblings, but after several visits over the next few days, we did not feel like these precious kids were meant to be our children. For whatever reason, we felt an uneasiness, as if God was asking us to surrender our last hope to Him. We informed our agency representative that we would not be pursuing an adoption of these children, even though we knew we were to be on a flight out of the region the following afternoon. Our rep said that she would ask the official for another referral and that we should plan to be at the Ministry of Education’s office early the following morning. It was Valentine’s Day and although we felt like we may be going home empty handed once again, we had a certain peace and we actually slept that night.

February 15, 2007, we arrived at the MOE’s office and she yelled at us for a couple of minutes and then threw a folder in our direction and left the room. Our translator opened the folder and told us of a 13- month-old little boy who was available for adoption. She gave us more details and asked if we wanted to meet him and we almost shouted, “Yes!” We completed the necessary paperwork and rode to the orphanage. From the moment he was carried into the room, we knew we would jump through whatever hurdles necessary to try to complete this adoption. We did leave the region that afternoon and kept the details of our trip under wraps this time.

Our boy.

One of the first photos with our little guy.

Thankfully we were invited back to Russia the following month and had a court date at the end of March. There are a thousand more details and we actually had to head back a couple of days later for a second court date, but as you can guess…we got him! We arrived home with him on April 17th, 2007, after spending a month in Russia.

We carried on with our lives, enjoying the excitement and challenges of being parents to this delightful boy. We never pictured ourselves raising an only child, but we accepted what we thought was God’s plan for our lives. That is, until August 18th of 2009, when all it took was an e-mail from our adoption agency to get the ball rolling again.

Our agency, Children’s Hope International (CHI), sent us some photos and videos of waiting children in China and asked if we would be willing to open our hearts and home to any of them. I called Ken and told him about the e-mail. To my surprise, he seemed very open to it and just said, “Are we really going to do this again?” I think I said something like, “I think so,” and before long we had turned in our initial paperwork and signed up with another homestudy agency. We didn’t feel as strongly called to China, so we first investigated our state’s foster care program and spoke with our social worker about other options as well. Doors seemed to close and we knew that God was for adoption, so we just continued on with our homestudy and eventually committed to China.

We planned to adopt a child between the ages of 2 and 4 with what we hoped would be correctable medical needs. We researched heart conditions along with many other health concerns that some of the waiting children had. We requested more information on several children, but by the time we received their information, they were already spoken for. That was discouraging for us, but wonderful for the kids.

It was the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2010, a little after 10pm. I was sitting on the couch checking my e-mail one final time before closing down the laptop for the day, when an e-mail showed up from CHI. I opened it to read a message entitled “waiting child.” I began to read some information…a girl…4 years old, almost 5. Then I clicked on an attachment and saw a picture start to appear, from the bottom of the image up. I quickly called out to Ken, “you better come see this,” and he hopped onto the couch next to me just as a little face started to appear. Our faces broke into smiles, our hearts fluttered, and we read on. Could this be our child? It’s a girl!

The first glimpse of our daughter.

The first glimpse of our daughter.

There is a mantra in the adoption world: “Hurry up and wait.” In typical fashion, that was our next move. Since we received this referral during Thanksgiving week, our agency would be closing for a couple of days and instead of having the typical 3 or 4 days to decide on whether or not we wanted to pursue adopting this child, we had about 24 hours. We prayed that night, went to bed and woke up and looked at each other. “I’m in if you are” one of us said and the wait for the next steps began.

Thankfully, other than a couple of delays (that seemed nerve-wracking and endless at the time) due to Chinese holidays and trade fairs, our plans progressed smoothly and we received our travel dates. We left for China in May of 2011 and met our daughter the day after Mother’s Day. How perfect was that? We had hoped to be there before her 5th birthday, but were a month late, but everything else went so very well. We were thankful for that, since we weren’t sure how much turmoil our hearts could handle this time around.

Red Couch picture in Guangzhou.

Red Couch picture in Guangzhou.

We flew home on May 20th and were reunited with our son at the airport and became a family of four.  We are blessed beyond measure!

Our family of four!

Our family of four–together for the first time–after a really long day of flying for three of us.

5 comments

  1. Sladja says:

    I can’t stop crying, I love your stories, this is an excellent blog Laury, you did a great job. I love all your pictures especially of adoption, and remembering your early days with your kids. I am so blessed to call you a good friend. Hugs to you all 🙂

  2. Jennifer Johnson says:

    I remember a lot of the details but some were new. It’s crazy how fast the 2 years have passed since bringing Ella home.

    • lgroh says:

      Hi Jennifer! Yes, on one hand it seems like Ella’s been with us forever, but in reality, those years have gone so fast! She has changed in so many ways–I wish I would have been better about recording more things about her along the way. Once in a while we remember the way she used to say things, etc. and she loves to talk about it. Making history/memories with her is good.

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